Newtown, Conn. is about 700 miles from Laurinburg. But residents here have responded in ways that defy distance.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out the citizens of that small town in Connecticut,” said Laurinburg Mayor Tommy Parker who asked for a moment of silence at this week’s city council meeting.
Others took to social media to express their outrage or sense of loss after a gunman opened fire at an elementary school killing 27 people before turning the gun on himself. Friday’s shooting has been called the one of the deadliest rampages in recent history.
A group of some 25 people gathered outside the A.B. Gibson Education Center in Laurinburg, lighting candles in a brief vigil for the children and adults killed last week.
Kenneth Blease, pastor of Northview Harvest Ministries in Wagram, led Tuesday night’s prayer asked for clear thinking in the wake of the tragedy.
“There are two kinds of fear: there’s motivating fear, which is the kind that causes us to take necessary precautions, to be healthy, to be protected, and then there’s dominating fear,” Blease said. “But as God’s people, we have something greater than fear.”
Andy Cagle, public information officer for the Scotland County school system, said that a few parents have raised concerns about the safety of the county’s public schools. Twenty of the victims were children attending Sandy Hook Elementary School, which has students from kindergarten through fourth grade, aged 5-10.
“We sent out a letter from the superintendent Monday night to let parents know that we’re constantly updating our safety procedures and inspecting schools to see if there are any holes or anything we can improve to make them safer,” said Cagle.
During the Tuesday’ s vigil, those gathered sang the hymns “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace” while Scotland County Ministerial Alliance president Elizabeth Anderson read the names of the Sandy Hook victims aloud.
Kim Slocum, a mother of two daughters who attended the vigil, said that sending her children to school this week left her uneasy.
“It was devastating to hear that so many babies lost their lives for something that was senseless,” Slocum said. “To think that there are a lot of children who are gone because of someone’s hatred toward life, not toward the children, but just toward life in general. We send them to school to be safe and we send them to school to get a quality education, and we would never think that something like this would ever happen to our children, but it’s reality. It’s where we are in the world.”
School board member Darrel Gibson, said that the local schools, like many throughout the world, have done everything in their power to ensure the safety of their students.
“Of course we do have security measures in place at all of our schools, but I don’t know that there are any measures that could have prevented what happened, said Gibson, who is pastor of Nazareth Missionary Baptist Church. “The enemy works and moves so quickly. We do pledge to do whatever needs to be done in our community. We talked with the superintendent just this past week about looking into putting other measures in place to ensure security.”
Newtown, in Fairfield County, is 45 miles southwest from Hartford and 60 miles northeast of New York City, a suburb of Danbury, population of about 28,000.